Slavery and killing children

(Josiah) #1

Hey brethren,

Recently my dad was challenged somebody at work as to why God allowed slavery and why God commanded the killin of men, women and children throught the bible. I know I have been challenged woth such a question and it is tough to answer. Any insight or links or any videos of Ravi on this would be great. I thought I remembered one of the lectures in the core module going over something like this but I could not quite remember. Anything would help both myself and my dad.

(Cameron Kufner) #3

Great question. This is a common objection which I have also faced. One of my old athiest friends challenged me on this.

We have to understand, first, there are many types of slavery. We all know the form of slavery that most commonly comes to mind when people here the word “slavery.” The Bible/God would never condone that form of slavery. I had explained to my friend that the slavery mentioned in The Bible is a social contract, not the historical slavery that it is commonly tied to the objectjon.

Here is a video that explains the topic brilliantly.

Hope this helps.

(Josiah) #4

Can you give me the link to the video you shared? Pretty good points in there on slavery. Thank you!

(Cameron Kufner) #5

Unfortunately, if I post the link it will just pop up the video. If you go to YouTube and type in “John MacArthur Ben Shapiro Slavery” it will be one of the top video results. I hope it helped! God bless!

(SeanO) #6

@jymyn86 Here are some resources on both slavery in the OT and the destruction of the Canaanites. A few high level notes to keep in mind:

  • God was in the business of redeeming culture. While He did not outlaw slavery, He did move it in a redemptive direction by requiring fair treatment of slaves - especially in contrast to the dominant culture.
  • slavery in the OT was more like indentured servant hood - it was not like the slavery in the antebellum south
  • God gave the Canaanites ~400 years to repent (Genesis 15:16) while His own people were in Egypt and God later punished Israel for many of the same sins for which the Canaanites were punished. God rules over nations - He raises them up and brings them down.

A good book to read would be ‘Is God a Moral Monster?’ by Paul Copan:

The Lord Jesus grant you wisdom as you communicate truth to your Dad and your Dad wisdom as he shares with his coworkers. May God’s Spirit be present in the situation in a powerful way.


Here are a few articles from Paul Copan that address this very question. Below is a list of laws the Israelites had that are markedly different from the surrounding cultures of the Ancient Near East (ANE) and very, very, very different from slavery in the antebellum south. Regarding the specific passage you listed from Exodus 20, Copan points out that it actually requires ‘life for life’ even in the case of slaves, which was unheard of in the ANE.

1. Anti-Harm Laws: One marked improvement of Israel’s laws over other ANE law codes is the release of injured servants (Exodus 21:26,27). When an employer (“master”) accidentally gouged out the eye or knocked out the tooth of his male or female servant/employee, he/she was to go free. God did not allow physical abuse of servants. If an employer’s disciplining his servant resulted in immediate death, that employer (“master”) was to be put to death for murder (Exodus 21:20) — unlike other ANE codes.10 In fact, Babylon’s Hammurabi’s Code permitted the master to cut off his disobedient slave’s ear (¶282). Typically in ANE law codes, masters — not slaves — were merely financially compensated. The Mosaic Law, however, held masters to legal account for their treatment of their own servants — not simply another person’s servants.

2. Anti-Kidnapping Laws: Another unique feature of the Mosaic Law is its condemnation of kidnapping a person to sell as a slave — an act punishable by death (Exodus 21:16; cp. Deuteronomy 24:7). Kidnapping, of course, is how slavery in the antebellum South could get off the ground.

3. Anti-Return Laws: Unlike the antebellum South, Israel was to offer safe harbor to foreign runaway slaves (Deuteronomy 23:15,16) — a marked contrast to the Southern states’ Fugitive Slave Law. Hammurabi’s Code demanded the death penalty for those helping runaway slaves (¶16). In other less-severe cases — in the Lipit-Ishtar (¶12), Eshunna (¶49-50), and Hittite laws (¶24) — fines were exacted for sheltering fugitive slaves. Some claim that this is an improvement. Well, sort of. In these “improved” scenarios, the slave was still just property ; the ANE extradition arrangements still required that the slave be returned his master. And not only this, the slave was going back to the harsh conditions that prompted him to run away in the first place.11 Even upgraded laws in first millennium BC Babylon included compensation to the owner (or perhaps something more severe) for harboring a runaway slave. Yet the returned slaves themselves were disfigured, including slitting ears and branding.12 This isn’t the kind of improvement to publicize too widely.

Slavery in the bible and slavery in history

The Destruction of the Canaanites

Here is a thread diving deeper into the questions surrounding the destruction of the Canaanites:

(Josiah) #7

Thank you! Can somebody give more insight into the killing of children and women? Resources like the one’s provided here on slavery?

(SeanO) #8

@jymyn86 Paul Copan’s book addresses that issue. Also, you may find the following resources helpful. The Canaanites, both women and men, were not simply innocent farmers - there was idolatry, violence and bestiality. In addition, it is not clear that the language of total destruction implies that the Canaanites were to be killed to the last person. It may mean, in ancient vernacular, that they were to be completely driven out of the land so that the Israelites would not be led astray by them.

The Canaanites Were Not Innocent Agrarian Farmers

The Canaanites were some bad dudes. They burned children alive in the arms of bronze statues of false gods and committed bestiality and a host of other such sins. Here is an article I found a while back detailing the nature of Canaanite degradation. It is also if interest that during the 4 generations God gave them to repent, the Canaanites degrade morally.

canaanites.pdf (873.7 KB)

Driven Out Instead of Completely Destroyed

Now go, attack the Amalekites and totally destroy everything that belongs to them. Do not spare them; put to death men and women, children and infants, cattle and sheep, camels and donkeys .’” (1 Sam 15:2-3)

Paul Copan suggests that this language of ‘totally destroy’ was not literal, but was common military language used for complete victory, like when we say that one sports team ‘wiped out’ another one. He also suggests that the cities Israel wiped out were civilian targets; not military ones. And that God’s purpose was to drive the Canaanites out; not utterly destroy them.

Here is Copan’s article and a short summary of this position from another website.

Copan’s Article

"The record shows that Joshua fully obeyed the Lord’s command:

Thus Joshua struck all the land, the hill country and the Negev and the lowland and the slopes and all their kings. He left no survivor, but he utterly destroyed all who breathed, just as the Lord, the God of Israel, had commanded…. He left nothing undone of all that the Lord had commanded Moses. (Josh. 10:40, 11:15)

Still, at the end of Joshua’s life it was clear that many Canaanites continued to live in the land, left to be driven out gradually by the next generation (Josh. 23:12-13, Judges 1:21, 27-28). According to Copan, if Joshua did all that was expected of him, yet multitudes of Canaanites remained alive, then clearly the command to destroy all who breathed was not to be taken literally, but hyperbolically.

If these arguments go through—if God did not command the utter and indiscriminate destruction of men, women, and children by Joshua’s armies, but simply authorized an appropriate cleansing military action to drive out Israel’s (and God’s) enemies—then the critic’s challenge is largely resolved, it seems."

No Other Stream

Even though some of these questions are difficult, we recognize, as did C. S. Lewis, that God is not tame nor safe and yet He is the only source of true life - there is no other stream.

But although the sight of water made her feel ten times thirstier than before, she didn’t rush forward to drink. She stood as still as if she had been turned to stone, with her mouth wide open. And she had a very good reason: Just on this side of the stream lay the Lion. . . .

How long this lasted, she could not be sure; it seemed like hours. And the thirst became so bad that she almost felt she would not mind being eaten by the lion if only she could be sure of getting a mouthful of water first.

“If you’re thirsty, you may drink.” . . .

For a second she stared here and there, wondering who had spoken. Then the voice said again,

“If you are thirsty, come and drink.” . . .

It was deeper, wilder, and stronger; a sort of heavy, golden voice. . . .

“Are you thirsty?” said the Lion.

“I’m dying of thirst,” said Jill.

“Then drink,” said the Lion.

“May I — could I — would you mind going away while I do?” said Jill.

The Lion answered this only by a look and a very low growl. . . . The delicious rippling noise of the stream was driving her nearly frantic. . . .

“Do you eat girls?” she asked fearfully.

“I have swallowed up girls and boys, women and men, kings and emperors, cities and realms,” said the Lion. It didn’t say this as if it were boasting, nor as if it were sorry, nor as if it were angry. It just said it.

“I daren’t come and drink,” said Jill.

“Then you will die of thirst,” said the Lion.

“Oh dear!” said Jill, coming another step nearer. “I suppose I must go and look for another stream then.”

“There is no other stream,” said the Lion.

The Silver Chair , (New York: Harper Collins, 1953), Kindle Edition, locations 219-238.

(Isaiah J. Armstrong) #9

Clay Jones has written amazing articles on the killing of the Canaanites:

Plus he wrote a book that includes a bit on this topic:

I also suggest looking him up on YouTube. He has some extensive talks on these subjects (they are quite long but very much worth it).